Thursday, June 29, 2006's here and growing

The last week has presented a raft of operators in Thailand jumping on the IPTV bandwagon.

Recent announcements by

And discoveries of a Shingapore Telecom service shows that there is a Thai foray into the delivery of TV over broadband.

The numbers of subscribers are limited by the lack of infrastructure in the Kingdom but True seem to understand what is required and TT&T have a license (under TTT Broadband) that allows them to roll out services in Bangkok as well as their traditional stomping ground of upcountry (rural) areas.

I wonder if the intention had been to try and open up the service in readiness for the world cup, I hope they succeed in getting at least some subscribers to the final as it will be a good test of the service and scalability.

I wish them every success in their endeavours, I already use many services from True; and would be willing to look at some of the TT&T offerings as both of these companies are really trying to make an effort to shift from the voice revenue market, and pushing hard to morph their companies to adapt to the new reality of Telco today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Upside Downism

Like many people out there I started my blog by commenting on things that I had found on the News feeds, I try not to recycle other peoples blog entries but this is a common practice as well.

For me the blogosphere was an echo of the traditional press, akin to the thunder clap after the lightning bolt.

Over the past few months I have noticed that the storm is getting nearer; I now hear the thunder very quickly after seeing the lightning.

In some sectors the blogosphere is now very much the lightning generator and there is often a delay before the old guard (BBC et al) feel the pulse. More interestingly there seems to be a higher form of intelligence in the bloggers. On many occasions people are authoring in isolation on the same (at least very similar) ideas and concepts.

The pace of idea forming is increasing exponentially as the seed of the idea is shared across the blogosphere and extrapolated in follow up postings.

To quote the BBC yesterday

If you believe the hype, blogs are as significant as the invention of the printing press for their ability to change the way the world will be seen. If on the other hand you believe the counter-hype, blogs are a self-indulgence which pander to dull people's misguided beliefs that they have something interesting to say
I know which category I fit into :) but I do see the shift that is turning traditional Journalism, upside down, where the breaking news is being broken in the blogosphere first.

Pump my Pipe...It's Convenient

Once more I find convergence, and I don't mean FMC or any of those other Telco terms, I have found Idea Convergence.

Some time ago Paul Jardine talked about "the Other network" an idea he had many years ago, now we have NZ Telecom doing just that. On this blog I have extended the ideas of the Wifi Lightpost and fixed wireless access and Paul raised the idea of TescoMax.

Right now WiFi access in Bangkok is far from prolific but with the license given to TTT Broadband they could use some of these ideas to broaden the access to their network. Throughout this sprawling city you can rely on finding one of two things:

  1. A petrol station - PTT, Caltex, Shell, Green Leaf etc
  2. 7-Eleven - the ubiquitous convenience store
And in many locations you can find both i.e. a 7-Eleven at a petrol station.

Tie in to these two infrastructure nodes and you have a pretty good grid for your network nodes. Both places by default are in built up urban areas with homes greedy for internet access.

PTT and DTAC have a partnership that gives them an EDGE Modem on the DTAC network that makes it cheap for electronic payment methods to be used opposed to the high prices charged by the domestic arm of the TOT/CAT duopoly. So PTT at least are used to business benefits of wireless access, it's time to create the same benefit for the customers.

I'm sure 7-Eleven face similar high charges for telephony so giving them free access in return for hosting your WiMax infrastructure would be welcomed. They are also a known brand that has is an efficient supply chain for your pre-paid cards (assuming that you are going to charge for access) and a payment mechanism as they offer the PayPoint service.

TT&T themselves have a lot of phone booths so could easily roll out WiFi on "their other network"

There is a glitch though. I also happen to think that 7-Eleven and ideally placed to be an MVNO for the same reasons, they are everywhere, people know who they are and a wireless extension of their PayPoint service would be a service I would sign up for. However there is no reason why the partnership could still be a productive one.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Meeting Room in a box....Conference 2.0

I've reached that point in my life/career where I feel the need to attend the occasional conference. There are a couple that interested me here in Bangkok, Thailand Telco Forum, and the other is the Revenue Assurance Summit 2006.

However the costs of both are too high for me to justify at this point. Although I have to say that I did receive a phone call from IQPC to see if there was anything that could be done to help with the price which as nice follow up on the CS front.

Still what are the benefits of conferences:

  • Networking - shaking hands and exchanging details
  • Workshops - facilitated discussion with presentations
  • Coffee or Watercooler chats - sidebar discussion with peers
  • Presentations and case studies - slideware and demos
Now given the advances in technology and delivery options do we need to spend many thousands of US$ to get these today?

Paul and myself conceptualized the idea of a meeting room in a box when we worked in the same company.

In essence it was all of the equipment plus branding material that could be delivered to the client site and installed very easily in a room on their premises. The theory being that in the large region with many customers in many countries in different timezones the differentiator for the company would be the ease with which the client could connect and discuss real issues in real time without the need to get lots of people on planes.

So what would that kit look like today? there would be a lot of Web 2.o tools in there and some tried and tested favourites:
  • Writely - collaborative word processing
  • Google Spreadsheets - say no more but with collaboration
  • Thumbstacks - online presentations
  • Skype 2.5 - Telephone Conferencing VoIP -> VoIP and/or VoIP -> PSTN vice versa plus Web Cam suport
  • LearnLinc - demo and training software
  • Blog - a real time (as close as we can) blog feed with back channel (but you already knew as you've got this far already)
  • Podcast
  • LinkedIn
Conference 2.0 would use this toolkit to enable participants to be "at" the conference at a fraction of the cost and with the convenience of being at home to help with the Work-Life balance.

The first three become my presentations.
Skype becomes the eyes and ears of the participant(s) and can go a long way to being the facilitation layer for the workshops.
LearnLinc is the workshop room where I can also hold my presentation or my demo.
Blog is the minutes of the meeting and my takeaway for future reference
Podcast is the multilingual voice presentation, Q&A, welcome and closing speeches and I can keep them for later.
LinkedIn is my networking and meet and greet tool that allows me to easily approve and contact people in the future.

Hi Kettle... I'm Pot.... You're Black

In an interesting twist I thought I would do some background reading on Wireless Facilities Inc, commonly (you could say Jargon) known as WIFI after yet another shameless act to grab a phrase in common practice, stick a trademark on it and see the $$'s roll in.

I wonder if they've ever thought of their abbreviated name, and how similar it seems to WiFi which is trademarked by the WiFi Alliance back in 2003......

This shameless practice should be stopped or before long every word in the Oxford English Dictionary will carry the sign.

I wonder who holds the trademark on sign???

Isn't it Ironic.....

There's been a lot of talk on Net Neutrality and it's all gone quiet.

I don't see why everyone is so surprised Net Neutrality is the Techno equivalent of "selective listening" something that we all learn from a very early age and continue to practice through life.

Working in a tricky project right now where I am employed to advise the client on how they should be implementing their chosen product to give them the best of functional match and easy maintenance and upgrade paths. However the client employs a lot of selective listening and it got me thinking of "Advice Neutrality"©™® and why baby Bell react the way they do.

Many decision have already been made before I joined the project and no amount of discussion and persuasion is going to change their minds as it might be more work upfront (short term pain, long term gain) or it might mean that they lose their position of power (they are the SI) as the real client won't have to go for them for changes and S&M later. This is no different from AT&T for example wanting to limit the traffic of VoIP providers that they see taking the revenues right out of their pipe.

I'm not saying I condone it but you've got to understand it.

Time will tell on both, but in terms of my project predicament just think of Alanis Morissette's Ironic "it's like to good advice that I just didn't take....."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Earlier I wrote about integrating the Gizmo VoIP client with Asterisk (open source PBX) .

Well I mostly use Skype and not Gizmo, for not other reason than familiarity and first come first serve adoption patterns on my part.

Skype is not a SIP based client. They wrote a proprietary protocol as they felt that SIP did not allow the navigation through the firewall that Skype clearly has.

Warning: an aside....
This is one of the advantages for Skype for me. I am frequently on site and very rarely can I get to any other of the Intranet or Extranet parts of the corporate network. Yahoo messenger sometimes works but mostly MSN is blocked. However with Skypes snakelike ability to transit the firewall I always have the options of Skype chat and encrypted file transfer.

People have been trying to get a SIP connection to Skype.... and succeeded for more information go and check TMC and the vendor RSDevs

So good news all round and it runs in Asterisk.

So could this be the first interconnect like system that allows VoIP users to transit between networks?

SIPly GizmAsterisktic

When I first starting reading up on the E series I thought I saw some mention of the ability to use the E60 within the company PBX with support for 4 digit (extension) dialling.

It seemed to disappear from the blurb on the Nokia site but as Mobile Burn have confirmed it is there.

This is good news as now it opens up a realm of possibilities. If you are using a PBX with wireless support; something like Asterisk, then you can configure the SIP settings so that when you are within range of the WAP your shiny new E60 can be used as your normal deskphone.

Impressive but so what? Asterisk 2.0 also supports Gizmo a SIP Softphone VoIP client similar to Vonage and Skype.

This now allows me to route calls from Gizmo to me mobile handset. That's pretty useful if you're on Gizmo which is very US centric but does support Call In in the UK and Spain. It comes with the usual Call Out and Gizmo->Gizmo free calls.

All very nice and relatively easy to do. Asterisk runs on Linux and so the whole platform supports the growing trend in OpenSource adoption in the SME market.

The final step in the chain is something that many people have talked about already. Using your WiFi router to host some of this stuff. I use Belkin at home and I'm very happy with it, I piggy back onto the ADSL modem so I can have an always on connection wherever I am in the house. Belkin is a supported provider in the openWRT forum

OpenWrt is a Linux distribution for wireless routers. Instead of trying to cram every possible feature into one firmware, OpenWrt provides only a minimal firmware with support for add-on packages. For users this means the ability to custom tune features, removing unwanted packages to make room for other packages and for developers this means being able to focus on packages without having to test and release an entire firmware.

So I can now change my firmware and run the a Linux distro on my router to host Asterisk*

The total solution is ideal for SME's as I get a very cost effective PBX for my business that can scale nicely if I build out the connectivity by adding some access points as well.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bluetooth needs an overbite

Bluetooth was once a bit of a gimmick and was hard to come by. It was toyed with by some of the gadget freaks but never really found a proper niche as they were very few devices that you could connect with.

The last couple of generations of handsets has seen Bluetooth have a pretty healthy comeback and now you can find the technology embedded into phones, thru headsets, stereo headphones and on to cameras.

However until very recently you were still limited to one channel, this gave you very little flxibility and the profiles are a bit clunky.

Again this is in a state of evolution and my future phone; the Nokia E60, comes with six bluetooth channels.

There is the usual banter about how WiFi enabled handsets will start to undo the handcuffs that the Mobile Operator has put on your wrists, although in reality the MNO will still own the pipe, but many people forget about Bluetooth. It is a complementary connectivity option as it to can be a route into the UMA and out on to the mobile network.

As Martin observed earlier this week many people are using some of the bridging capabilities of Bluetooth radio. This is allowing them to use their mobile handset as a over engineered Bluetooth headset.

So there is some work required to give the Bluetooth the bite it needs to really make it's mark but the market is ready for the new standard.

So there are more options for you to reveal the potential of Bluetooth. Although here's some free advice. If you're picking up a headset accessory for your Nokia stay away from this model, the Nokia HDW-3.

Here in Thailand it retails for just shy of 4,000 Baht (that's 60 of your British Pounds and pushing up and over 100 bucks) so it's not cheap. Unfortunately the quality and the usefulness of the unit is completely over turned by the plastic ear clip that costs around 3 Baht (5 pence) to manufacture. The clip ring frequently fails meaning that the headset can not be used in a hands free mode.

When I get round to changing my phone I'll spring for this guys newest brother, Nokia HS-26W. The clip is more of a rubberised affair that is more flexible and it lends itself to left or right usage much better.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thai Telcos could create a use for that SMS pipe

One of the weirdnesses of Thailand mobile patterns is the skewed use of SMS.

I don't know for sure but based on the calls I receive and how I watch people using their handset SMS is not as widely used as in the UK or Europe.

Why? two basic reasons

  1. The language itself; 44 consonants and 32 vowels
Hello: สวัสดี
SMS on a normal handset: 9 -> 8 (5 times) -> *(select a vowel) -> 9 -> 1(4 times) -> *(select a vowel) this is then 14 key presses to write hello

2. The people; Thais are very person centric and as such they would much rather speak to someone than conduct a conversation through remote control. IVR and CTI is used in Thailand but most people tend to go to "speak to a CSR" option as they want to have that one-to-one with a person and not a machine.

So the operators (DTAC, TrueMove fka Orange, AIS) have a lot of spare SMS capactity that they're not gettting revenue for.

DTAC have starting using a combination of PushMail and SMS as a work force managment aide.

Martin Geddes
of Telepocalypse has posted a possible revenue generating use for this SMS pipe that could become big if used the right way. It's an extension of the SMS voting that we see for Academy Fantasia and Big Brother.

The current crisis in Thailands North after the flash floods killed and injured, destroyed property and infrastructure have resulted in the usual outpouring of 'nam jai' where those who have freely donate to those who now don't. The items are all graetly received but cash is still king. Something like the buy a brick campaign could help a lot and the payment mechanism is already here.

Viral Marketing and the Long Tail

Geoff Long wrote in the the Bankok Posts, Database (every Wednesday) in the emergence of "the Long Tail" into a wider audience. He is predicting that the term will become more widely used that today.

The term was defined last year and the first cited example is that of a surge in the popularity of a book on climbing several years after it was written and referenced in a much more recently published book.

The long tail is ideally suited to many forms of content today. Examples are MPS downloads and Books (electronic and some printed) where you can easily develop the concept of a back catalogue that generates interest.

I know that I have 'discovered' a new author several books into their series and wanted to purchase and read everything else. This is certainly the case with Lee Child, David Baldacci and Stephen Leather.

This behavior leads me to the conclusion that the Long Tail is the ideal viral marketing technique. For me Skype was pretty viral. I have been using it for more than one year now but only a friend told me about it. As posted earlier this year this approach is still happening, many people are still finding out about Skype from friends and colleagues well into the growth and usage pattern.

So if you have a product that you you would like to market; forget the big release and grand openings create a very accessible portal (Web Page, Blog etc) tell some people and sit back and wait. Don't get disheartened when the hits are small keep the portal open and available and over time the Long Tail will allow people to find you.